Vitamins are organic compounds that must be present in trace amounts in a person diet to lead a healthy life. As of today, 13 vitamins have been identified as necessary for human health, and there are several more mineral-like substances which prove to pave the way for a healthy life. Their actions are different, and though exhaustively studied, not everything has been unraveled and understood about how they work and what they do. The vitamins are named by letters—vitamin A, vitamin C, D, E, K, and the group of B vitamins. Let’s first take a look at the materials required to make the vitamin pills.
Vitamins can be derived from both plants and animals. Vitamin A, for example, can be obtained from fish liver oil and Vitamin C from citrus food and rose hips. But most commercial vitamins are made by artificial means. We can say that Vitamin A is obtained from acetone and Vitamin C from keto acid. It must be highly stressed though whether the vitamins be extracted naturally or made artificially, there is no chemical difference.
Certain additive products are readily accepted by the body which is also added to the pills to help aid in the manufacturing process. These additives usually are microcrystalline glucose, cellulose, calcium or maltodextrin. Magnesium stearate or stearic acid is usually added to vitamin tablets as a lubricant and silicon dioxide as a flow agent. These additives help the vitamin powder run smoothly through the tablet-making or encapsulating machine. Modified cellulose gum or starch is often added to vitamins as a disintegration agent. It helps the vitamin compound break up once it is ingested. Many coatings are made from a cellulose base.
The Manufacturing Process
The first manufacturing process involves what is known as a preliminary check. The manufacturer purchases the raw materials (aka the vitamins). The procured raw material comes with what is known as a certificate of analysis, which states the content composition and how potent they are. A preliminary test is none the less done by the manufacturer in independent laboratory analysis. If herbs are being mixed into the batch, then it will be tested for potency and if any bacterial contamination is present. After the preliminary check comes to the pre-blending process. The raw material which comes to the manufacturer comes in a powdered state and does not usually require any processing from the manufacturer’s end. But at times it so happens the raw material is not finely ground. Then the raw material will again have to be run through a mill and a ground.
The next process which is involved in the process of making vitamin pills is wet granulation. The method of wet granulation determines particle size in vitamin tablets which are highly imperative in determining how well the formula will run through the tableting machine. In some cases, the raw vitamins arrive from the distributor milled to the appropriate size for tableting. In other cases, a wet granulation step is necessary. This a process where the vitamin is mixed with cellulose particles then wetted. The mixture is then dried in a dryer. After drying, the formula may be in chunks as large as a dime. These chunks are sized by being run through a mill. The mill forces the fragments through a small hole of the desired diameter of the granule. These granules can then be weighed and mixed.
After the wet granulation process is the weighing and mixing process, when the vitamin material is ready it takes to the weight station where it is weighed. The required weight for the formula is listed out specifically in each batch. After the weigh down the vitamin material is poured into a mixer. The volume of a typical mixer may be of the dimension 0.42-0.84-meter cube. In large manufacturing facilities it may be many times larger. The ingredients are present in the mixture for approximately 15-30 minutes. During the mixing process, a sample is taken to the lab to ensure the mix is of the prescribed formula. After mixing is complete, workers take the vitamin formula to either an encapsulating or a tablet-making machine.
Once the weighing and mixing process is over the next step would be to load the vitamin material into the encapsulating machine. The batch is only put into the encapsulating machine only after the batch is approved after mixing. The beginning of a batch involves the inspection of the encapsulating machine which is done to ensure that the capsule is prepared in the proper weight. Visual analysis is also done during the encapsulation as to whether the capsules are splitting or dimpling. After the completion of the testing, the entire batch is approved to be manufactured in bulk. The vitamin mixture flows through a single hopper, and a secondary hopper holds whole gelatin capsules. The capsules are broken into halves by the machine, and the bottom half of the capsule falls through a funnel into a rotating dosing dish. Then the machine measures a precise amount of the powdered vitamin mixture into each open capsule half. Tamping pins push the powder down. Then the top halves of the capsules are pushed down onto the filled bottoms.
Completion of the encapsulating process comes the polishing and inspection. The filled vitamin capsules are put through a polishing machine. The vitamins are made to go around a belt which has a series of soft brushes. Any excess dust or vitamin powder is removed from the exterior of the capsules by the brushes. The polished pills are then poured onto an inspection table. The inspection table has a belt of rotating rods. The vitamins fall in the grooves between the rods, and the vitamins rotate as the rods turn. Thus, all sides of the vitamin are visible for the inspector to see. The inspector removes any capsules that are too long, split, dimpled, or otherwise imperfect. The vitamins that pass inspection are then taken over to the packaging area.
The final process is the packaging. The packaging of vitamins involves several steps and many machines to achieve the final packaging process. Once the vitamins are poured into the first hopper of the encapsulating machine, there is no human contact further from the production aspect of it. There is a machine which is present at the end of the process which is programmed to count the number of tablets per bottle. When the stipulated number of capsules are filled into a bottle, it is shipped to another machine where it is packaged and sealed automatically. The s bottles finally go through the process of being sealed, capped, labeled and shrink-wrapped. The finished bottles are placed into a box and ready to be shipped off.